BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
The chances for chaos in Cuba once President Fidel Castro leaves
``better than 50-50'' if he continues to block significant reforms, says Michael
Kozak, the former top U.S. diplomat in Havana.
And that is why Cuban exiles should step up contacts with the
added, to help strengthen Cuban society so that it can better withstand the shock
of Castro's disappearance and move toward democracy.
``I don't want to say civil society is the magic pill, but it's
a good element in
starting to prepare Cuba for the future,'' said Kozak, who headed the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana from 1996 until last October. Kozak, who was
replaced by Vicki Huddleston, is now in Washington awaiting a new State
Department assignment while he learns Russian. But he remains concerned
about Cuba's future, he told The Herald.
Credible Cuban analysts on the island, he said, are already worrying
mayhem that might erupt once Castro, who is 73 years old, surrenders the reins
of power he has held since 1959.
``I would put the chances for a chaotic transition at better then
said, noting that such a scenario probably would involve some level of violence but
not necessarily an all-out conflict.
``There will be some vengeance-seeking . . . whether it's every
night four or five
people getting beat up or knocked off by their neighbors for something they've
done in the past, or something on a larger scale,'' he said.
But the worst problem in the long run, Kozak added, is that Castro
almost nothing to put in place the kinds of reforms and structures that could help
maintain Cuba's stability once he is gone.
REFORMS TOO SMALL
Economic reforms adopted since 1993 have been far too modest,
reforms have been absent altogether.
``A Cuban reformer is someone who thinks the Chinese have it right,''
One change he noticed over his three years in Havana, Kozak said,
was that top
Cuban officials are now openly maneuvering for position and power in a
``After Cuba goes through the preplanned drill for a funeral,
they will all stand
together and pat each other in the back and show how unified they are,'' he said.
``But after a couple of months . . .''
Senior government officials will likely start arguing over budgetary
economic policy, Kozak said. And the island of 11 million people could then fall
into disorder. Violence ``in a way is the secondary part. The bigger worry is if you
create such a mess that people take desperate measures. More people can get
killed drowning than getting shot,'' he added, referring to the possibility of a
massive emigration wave toward Florida.
One way to try to avert such chaos, Kozak argued, is to strengthen
society by supporting the Clinton administration policy of promoting so-called
``people to people contacts.''
``I would encourage people, instead of worrying about those who
go to Cuba and
are manipulated by the government, to find other people with eyes wide open and
do something that won't be subject to manipulation,'' he said.
Cuban exiles could be particularly helpful in promoting the kinds
of peaceful and
reasonable activities that can help build and strengthen civil society in Cuba,
``You're going to lose some of the battles,'' he said. ``But if
you are willing to run
the risk [of Cuban government manipulation] and you can run through their
interference, that's what building civil society is all about.''
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald